Posted on Blog April 28, 2016
In the early stages of contract law, courts had often put a heavy emphasis on holding parties to the requirements of the contract, and put an emphasis on allowing free market competition where no contract existed. Claims for Tortious Interference go as far back as 1853. See Lumley v. Gye, 118 Eng. Rep. 749 (Q.B. 1853). In Lumley, the court held that the Defendant, a theater owner, could be liable for inducing an opera singer to breach her contract with Lumley, a competing theater owner. From the time Lumley was decided, even through very recent history, the courts have upheld the emphasis on free competition. However, as the ability to communicate has evolved through the development of technology, so too have the courts’ opinions on what is “fair” competition.
When cases like Lumley were decided, it could take days or longer to travel and meet to discuss the terms of a contract—due diligence in researching the business or individual could take even longer. Presently, however, the advent of modern technology has made it easier than ever to communicate with others, research the terms of the contract, and reach an agreement. As technology has evolved, new forms of contracting and communicating have become enabled. See Nancy S. Kim, Two Alternative Visions of Contract Law in 2025, 52 Duq. L. Rev. 303, 304 (2013). With this ease of communication, courts have begun to shift away from the heavy emphasis on free competition, and have placed more emphasis on the right to establish and maintain business relationships.
Although free competition is a decidedly good thing, it shouldn’t be without protection. In some cases, one or more parties need protection of the right to develop and maintain business relationships. The growing trend is to put more emphasis on deterring wrongful acts, and doing so does not unjustifiably constrain the traditional notions of contract law. See Jesse Max Creed, Note, Integrating Preliminary Agreements into the Interference Torts, 110 Colum. L. Rev. 1253, 1281 (2010).
If you believe that someone has interfered with a business relationship between you and your customer or potential customer, please contact the attorneys of ZESB for a consultation.